Kyrie Irving says he gave up over $100 million in free agency by not getting vaccinated

Kyrie Irving has missed more than half of the Nets games over the last three seasons.Seth Wenig/AP Images

  • Kyrie Irving said he lost over $100 million on his contract because of his decision not to get vaccinated.

  • Irving played just 27 games last year because of vaccine mandates, which affected contract talks with the Nets.

  • Irving opted into a $36 million player option for this season and will be a free agent next summer.

Kyrie Irving on Monday openly acknowledged how much money he lost by choosing not to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

Speaking to reporters from the Brooklyn Nets media day, Irving said his stance likely cost him over $100 million in free agency.

“I gave up four years, $100 and something million deciding to be unvaccinated,” Irving said. “And that was the decision. It was: contract, get vaccinated or being unvaccinated and there’s a level of uncertainty of your future, whether you’re gonna be in this league, whether you’re gonna be on this team.”

In all likelihood, Irving’s decision not to get vaccinated cost him more than $200 million.

Irving was unable to play Brooklyn Nets home games until March last season because of New York City mandates at the time. Irving did not get paid for those games. He missed 35 of 41 home games, plus one game against the New York Knicks. Irving made about $425,000 per game last year, meaning he lost about $15.3 million for missed games in New York City.

However, Irving on Monday was referring to money he lost in free agency.

Irving was eligible for a five-year, $200 million extension with the Nets this summer, but the Nets were unwilling to commit to him after a tumultuous season.

Irving reportedly weighed testing the free agent market but had limited suitors. Some were wary of committing big money because of Irving’s frequent lack of availability (he’s played just 103 games in three years in Brooklyn). The Los Angeles Lakers were interested in signing him, but didn’t have the cap space.

Ultimately, Irving opted into the final year of his contract, an option worth about $36.5 million for the 2022-23 season. He’ll be a free agent next summer.

Kyrie Irving stands with his hands on his knees during a game in 2022.

Kyrie Irving’s decision to remain unvaccinated against COVID-19 threw a wrench in the Nets’ season.Eric Gay/AP Images

Irving on Monday acknowledged that he considered leaving the Nets, saying there were options, “but not many.”

Now, Irving is set for what could be a career-defining season. Irving is one of the most talented players in the NBA, and the Nets are poised to contend for a championship if their best players can stay on the floor. Irving’s play and availability will be among the most scrutinized aspects of the NBA season.

Irving told reporters on Monday that an extension was supposed to be determined before the start of last season, but his decision not to get vaccinated threw it into question.

“We were supposed to have all that figured out before training camp last year,” Irving said. “And it just didn’t happen because of the status of me being unvaccinated. So, I understood [management’s] point, and I just had to live with it. It was a tough pill to swallow.”

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